Exit, Pursued by a Sierra Meadow.
That slow, rhythmic flickering of the wings, As if from the ache
of pleasure-- A California tortoiseshell Fastened to the white umbel of
a milkweed stalk.
Smell of water in the dry air, The almost nutmeg smell of dust.
White fir, Jeffrey pine, I have no way of knowing whether you prefer
Summer or winter, Though I think you are more beautiful in winter.
Scarlet fritillary, corn lily, I don't know which you prefer,
either. So long, horse mint, Your piebald mix of lavender and soft
grey-green under the cottonwoods On a shelf of lichened granite near a
creek May be the most startling thing in these mountains, Besides the
mountains. It's good that we stopped just a minute To look at you
and then walked down the trail Because we had things to do And because
beauty is a little unendurable, I mean, getting used to it is
unendurable, Because if we can't eat a thing or do something with
it, Human beings get bored by almost everything eventually, Which is why
winter is such an admirable invention. There's another month of
summer here. August will squeeze the sweetness out of you And drift it
ROBERT HASS served as poet laureate of the United States from
1995 to 1997; he is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American
Poets. The poems in this issue all appear in his forthcoming book, Time
and Materials, Poems 1997-2005 (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007).